Examining Maryland's In-State Football Recruiting History

It's a bye week, which means it's lots of random and kind of pointless research. Today's topic: in-state football recruiting. Sadly, this didn't prove a lot, so it's more my worthless thoughts than real information, but read on if you wish.

If you follow Maryland recruiting at all, you probably know that in-state recruiting has been less than stellar, both this year and in the past four or so years (the last  real good year was in 2005, five years ago, when Maryland landed 7 of the top 10 in state; sadly, they included guys like Morgan Green, Jeff Allen, Anthony Wiseman, and the dreaded Melvin Alaeze; if Maryland turned out that performance a year later, we'd have Penn State's defense right now).

But I digress. Back to the relevant in-state recruiting stuff: the majority of good (not great) teams, which is what Maryland should try to be, land around 25% of their top 15 in-state players. For instance, Pitt has landed 28% of the top 15 Pennsylvanians over the past five years. Illinois, while they haven't reaped the benefits of it this year, have hit that 28% mark as well. Virginia Tech does, too. South Carolina gets 24% of theirs. Most elite schools can afford, both literally and figuratively, to recruit outside their states: Maryland can't. For Maryland, the key to winning should be in-state recruiting.

As part of diagnosing the problems with the program, it would make sense to analyze this, which Heather Dinich already blew apart. And while I already blew apart the offensive and defensive line recruiting, it's worth noting that in state recruiting can't be called disastrous, at least not historically. Maryland does have trouble pulling in top targets - they haven't landed a #1 in-stater since Wesley Jefferson in 2003 - but they aren't miles away from the Pitts and South Carolinas of the world, both of whom are currently in the top 25 and could be considered programs similar to Maryland (except for the AD, some would argue [I wouldn't, but that's irrelevant]).

In fact, the Terps have pulled away 20% of the top 15 the past five years - not an outstanding number, but not terrible and better than some top 25 programs, like Ole Miss. The problem has been landing the best of the best in-state, which very few non-elite programs can do, and developing the players they get.

For the first part, Maryland's last number one was, as was said earlier, Wes Jeff. He left early for a job in police enforcement. The only other top 2 player they landed were Melvin Alaeze, and we know how that turned out, and DeOnte Arnett, who is yet to prove himself (or have a chance to prove himself). They've also landed Tre Covington, who was a disappointment, and Kevin Dorsey, who hasn't made much of an impact in his first season, who were #3s. Other than that: nothing.

Like I mentioned earlier, Maryland's best in-state class was in 2005. Making up 70% of the top 10, it included guys like Anthony Wiseman, Morgan Green, Jeff Allen, Jamari McCollough, Jeremy Navarre, and Darrius Heyward-Bey. Of them all, Hey-Bey is the only one that really blossomed into a star. The others probably underachived based on their ranking (which we know isn't guaranteed, but more often than not is a good indicator).

The exact opposite happened for Penn State the following year. They grabbed almost the exact same class out of Maryland, only theirs included Navorro Bowman, who had over 100 tackles last year and is one of the best linebackers in the country, instead of McCollough; Aaron Maybin, who was dominant and a first round pick last year, instead of Allen; and Phillip Taylor, a starting DT, instead of Morgan Green.

I'm not trying to blame anyone here, especially not the players, but the results are pretty damning for someone. Is it that Maryland got bad luck? Did Friedgen and his staff fail at developing the players? I don't really know, but it wasn't really the recruiting at fault.

The lack of player development is pretty well seen in the starting lineup itself this year: only two starters on offense are actually from Maryland, and one of them is Paul Pinegar, a former walk-on. At least seven starters on defense are native Marylanders, but 9/22 isn't a great ratio.

Just to clarify, I'm not trying to say rankings are everything: Maryland's found plenty of in-state diamonds in the rough (like Davin Meggett), and that's necessary too. But I still hold that rankings are mostly important and a highly ranked player will turn out better than a lower ranked player 7 times out of 10, given the same coaching. Nor am I saying that the Terps should only recruit in-state; as long as they get the players, it doesn't matter where they're from. But if they really want to take the next step as a program, which will allow them to successfully recruit out of state on a regular basis, they'll need to start being stronger in-state.

But I digress again.

One of things that showed up in the offensive line recruiting breakdown was that this year was most dependent on 2006's recruiting (and because 2006 was so bad, 2007's to an extent as well), last year on 2005's recruiting, and so forth. Looking at 2006 and 2007's in-state years, it should come as no surprise that those were the worst of the past five years, and that 2005 (in 2008 we won eight games, remember) was the best. In 2006, the Terps only landed three top 15 players - Adrian Moten was one, but so were Drew Gloster (who missed a year and switched positions) and Pha'Terrell Washington (academic casualty). In 2007, it was just two, and Devonte Campbell, who's seen slow development, was among them.

But outside of that year, the in-state recruiting has been pretty solid. 2008 and 2009 were both solid bounce back yeas, grabbing five and four, respectively. Sadly, this year likely won't qualify with the likes of those.

While it's not over, unless Maryland makes a very strong push with some of the remaining uncommitteds, it's looking like Iowa and Wisconsin will have more top 20 Marylanders than Maryland will. Iowa and Wisconsin: these aren't really big draws, either football-wise or location-wise (although Iowa is undefeated, they don't have all that much tradition and it's in Iowa).

There is some good news, though: 2005, Maryland's stellar recruiting season, occurred with James Franklin as recruiting coordinator. That was his last year as RC; he would leave shortly after to become the Packers' WR coach. He was replaced by Dave Sollazzo, who has been average at best. Franklin is now back, but has a lot of stuff on his plate as OC, leaving less time for recruiting. Perhaps, if he is instituted as coach, he hands the playcalling over to an OC and acts as a program CEO, giving him more time to get out on the trail and pull the recruiting back in. Hopefully.

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